Democrats Want Congress to Fight Republican Attacks on U.S. Census

We’ve seen Republicans try voter suppression, gerrymandering and illegal use of Facebook data to win elections. And now they want to under count people in “blue states” as part of the upcoming U.S. census.  This could cause states like New York and California to lose federal funding as well as seats in Congress.

But Democrats in Congress are fed up with Republicans, and they plan to fight this latest move by the GOP to cheat to stay in power.   In a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, four Democratic senators are calling for a hearing on the upcoming national headcount.  (That is the committee which has oversight of the U.S. Census Bureau.)

Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Tom Carper of Delaware, Gary Peters of Michigan and Claire McCaskill of Missouri have asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to testify in front of their committee and answer some tough questions about this latest move to undercut democracy.

Ross oversees the Census Bureau and he was the one who made the decision to add the citizenship question.  Ever since he announced this decision  to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census questionnaire there have been numerous lawsuits filed as well as calls for new legislation.  

In sending their letter the four Democratic Senators said they have very grave concerns about the way Republicans are messing with the census in order to further their own political agenda.  Lawsuits claim the citizenship question is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Democrats also want Ross and Census Bureau employees to answer their questions about why there is no permanent leadership at the bureau, as well as other challenges they expect to find when performing census in 2020.

“Together, these problems risk a substantial under count of persons in the 2020 Census with wide ranging implications for proportional representation in Congress, state government share of federal dollars, the accuracy of information businesses use to decide where to locate, the availability of affordable broadband service, and natural disaster funding,” the senators said in the letter, which was provided to NPR.

“We are concerned that the addition of the citizenship question is tainted by improper political considerations,” it continues. “DOJ requested the addition of this question in December 2017 based on an unsupported assertion that citizenship data are needed to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act even though the last time a citizenship question was asked was before the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and no similar requests have been made to support enforcement.”

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has also requested a hearing on the same topic.  Cummings is the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“The Trump Administration’s plan to insert a new, untested question on citizenship will increase costs for American taxpayers and decrease the accuracy of the census itself,” Cummings said.

On Thursday, the Census Bureau released publicly the wording of the question about citizenship status in their report to Congress: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”  U.S. households have not had to answer the citizenship question in nearly 70 years.